Sat, Sep 18, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Yu denies knowing of Keyser meetings

DIPLOMATIC SCANDAL Premier Yu and his foreign and defense ministers told lawmakers that they had not known of intelligence contacts with a former US State Department official

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

US State Department official Donald Keyser, shown in this July 14, 2003 photo arriving at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, was charged on Wednesday in Virginia with concealing a trip to Taiwan. He was released on US$500,000 bond.

PHOTO: AP

The Cabinet yesterday denied prior knowledge of intelligence officers meeting then-US State Depart-ment employee Donald Keyser in Washington and said bilateral ties have not been damaged by Keyser's arrest.

Keyser, who retired in July as principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, was accused of deliberately concealing from his superiors a four-day trip to Taiwan last September.

US law requires officials with Keyser's security clearances to report all foreign travel.

An FBI criminal complaint said that Keyser admitted meeting with a Taiwanese intelligence officer during his trip. But he said he had only flown to Taipei, "for sightseeing purposes."

At a court appearance on Wed-nesday in Virginia, Keyser was released on a US$500,000 bond and a preliminary hearing was set for Oct. 13. He had to surrender his passport and was ordered to wear an ankle bracelet to make sure he did not leave the area.

The charge against him is punishable by up to five years in prison.

FBI agents have alleged that Keyser met frequently with two Tai-wanese intelligence officers at Washington-area restaurants in recent months, where they would exchange papers.

Two Taiwanese officials were stopped after a Sept. 4 lunch meeting with Keyser in Virginia, the FBI complaint said. One of the officers was allegedly carrying a document that State Department analysts said involved material to which Keyser had access while at the department, the complaint said.

Meanwhile, Premier Yu Shyi-kun, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mark Chen (陳唐山) and Minister of National Defense Lee Jye (李傑) yesterday denied knowledge of any intelligence activities involving Keyser.

Yu and the two ministers were questioned by lawmakers yesterday during a question and answer session at the Legislative Yuan about the Cabinet's knowledge of Keyser and intelligence activities.

"I only learned about Keyser's arrest yesterday. I didn't know anything regarding the arrest in advance," Yu said when questioned by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Chuan-chiao (李全教).

"The case is being dealt with by US authorities and the government will cooperate with the US," Yu said.

"Our diplomats have acted in accordance with the law. They will not break American laws nor do they intend to break American laws. All diplomatic work is open and transparent," he said.

"If there is any further impact from the case, of course we will be responsible, but so far our interaction with the US remains normal," he said.

Chen gave a similar response to Lee Chuan-chiao's query.

"I only heard about the arrest yesterday. I don't know anything about the intelligence officers' contact with Keyser," Chen said.

The defense minister said he also didn't know of the meetings.

Later, Chen told reporters that the ministry would try to see what could be done to make up for the unfortunate incident.

"I just heard about the arrest, and we will see what we can do to compensate [for the incident]," he said.

According to a report in a Chinese-language evening paper, one of the officers who met Keyser on Sept. 4 was a 33-year-old woman working for the National Security Bureau in Washington. The paper said she returned to Taiwan about 10 days ago.

No allegations of espionage have been made against Keyser, and nothing in the FBI complaint indicates that he passed on classified material to the Taiwanese officials.

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